The following is excerpted from “Doormaking and Window-Making.”
As the Industrial Revolution mechanized the jobs of the joiner – building doors and windows by hand – one anonymous joiner watched the traditional skills disappear and decided to do something about it.
That joiner wrote two short illustrated booklets (combined here into one volume) that explained how to build doors and windows by hand. And what was most unusual about the booklets is that they focused on the basics of construction, from layout to joinery to construction – for both doors and windows.
Plenty of books exist on building windows and doors, but most of them assume you have had a seven-year apprenticeship and don’t need to know the basic skills of the house joiner. Or the doors and windows these books describe are impossibly complex or ornamental.
“Doormaking and Window-Making” starts you off at the beginning, with simple tools and simple assemblies; then it moves you step-by-step into the more complex doors and windows.
The fitting and hanging (or hingeing) of doors in a proper manner, is quite as important as the making, therefore we include the present chapter in this handbook, with the idea that it would not be complete otherwise.
To fit a panel door of any description, first take the exact width of the opening and transfer to the door, taking a piece off each stile if necessary, so that these will appear of equal width. If the door simply requires planing, which is as it should be, or if wider, after sawing off the waste at each side, plane the left-hand stile and fit it to the corresponding post, then do likewise with the other, making the door so that when close up to one side there is a space of a sixteenth of an inch parallel at the other.
The door must now be placed in position, close up to one post, as in Fig. 124, and scribed along the bottom with compasses. Whether the projecting stiles only are cut off, or a certain portion of the bottom rail as well, depends upon the height of the door compared with the opening. If the one is much higher than the other, a good portion of the waste should be removed from the bottom rail, leaving the top rail the same width as the stiles. This, of course, must be ascertained by actual measurement before scribing. Having scribed and cut off the bottom of the door, stand it up again, and mark the height required on the stiles, and in cutting off at the top, allow for the same play here as at each side and slightly more at the bottom.
In planing the edges of the door, that on the hanging side may be planed exactly square; but it is best to plane the other edge slightly under, as at A, Fig. 125, thus giving the door more clearance as it opens : especially does this apply to thick doors – in fact, in many cases the rebates are bevelled if the doors are thicker than one and a half inches.
The fitting of ledge doors is the same as described above,· except that so much trouble need not be taken, there being no stiles to keep equal in width.
For outside doors the play at sides and especially at the bottom must be greater than for inside, otherwise they will be liable to stick and require easing; while in many cases more play must be allowed at the bottom of room doors, to allow these to open over carpet or linoleum : of this, more later on.
If the doors are alike both sides, as in ordinary room doors, the hollow side (if the door is not flat, as is sometimes the case) must be fitted towards the rebates, as in Fig. 126 A – the fastening will then keep the door tight ; but if the round side is put to the rebates, as Fig. 126 B, there will always be a space at top and bottom, and the door will also rub the post in the middle, at the hinge side, as it opens.
For ledge doors the usual hinges are the “cross garnett ” or “tee” hinges, examples of which are given in Fig. 127. The fixing of these is very simple: the door is stood up in position, blocking it so that it has the correct play all round, and the hinges screwed on as in Fig. 128. The top hinge should have the knuckle immediately over the joint, but the bottom should be placed back further on to the post as shown. This has the effect of throwing the front of the door up as it opens, as shown in Fig. 129.
Panel doors are invariably hung with “butt hinges,” a front and end view of which we show in Fig. 130, and these may be fixed by letting the whole thickness into the door, as Fig. 131 A; by letting half into the door and half into the post, as Fig. 131, B, or by letting them in on the skew, as Fig. 131 C. The first is the jerry builder’s method, being done quickly; the second is the joiner’s method, and the correct one for all purposes as regards house doors ; while the third is usually adopted by cabinet makers, and is correct for furniture, but more difficult to do properly. The “butts” should be let into the door first, the correct positions being 6 ins. from the top and 10 ins. from the bottom of the door. The distance on the edge from the face should be slightly less than the width of the butt to the centre of the pin on which it turns, and the depth of the recess should be the thickness of one leaf of the butt. The length of the recess should be marked by laying on the butt itself, each one in the position it will fill, as they vary in size slightly.
The recess as marked is shown in Fig. 132, while Fig. 133 A and B show the effect of letting the butt in too far on the edge, and not far enough respectively, the one causing the door to scrape the frame as it opens, and the other leaving an ugly gap between when the door is open. After letting the butts into the door, and screwing them tightly, the door should be placed in position, blocking it so that it has its proper play all round, as in Fig. 134. Then with the butts open, mark on the frame at the bottom and top of each for the height, and down by the knuckle for the depth of the recess. The door can then be removed, the height marks squared across, and the gauge used for the width. On cutting the wood out to the marks, the door may be fixed temporarily with one screw in each butt, and if found to be correct (as it should be) the remaining screws can be inserted, while, if not correct, alteration must be made accordingly.
In the above description we are assuming that the door and frame are both made true – that the door is of parallel thickness, and the rebate slightly deeper to give the necessary play; but in many cases we regret to say that the frame is rebated without any regard to the thickness of the door, and if so, the door may either bind on the rebate, if the latter is not deep enough, or may not fit close enough to it, if too deep. To get over this difficulty, the gauging for the width of the recess should be done from the edge of the rebate, and the inside of the door respectively, taking great care that the hinges are not let in far enough to make the door bind, as in A Fig. 133.
Doors may be made to rise as they open by using rising butts, but these are clumsy in appearance : the only difficulty in fixing is to take special care to get them fitted correctly, and also to get them the right hand for the door, or they will throw the door down instead of up.
Instead of using rising butts, the door may be made to rise in front as it opens, by allowing the bottom butt to project more than the top one, as in Fig. 135. This means different gauging for each butt, but it often has to be done, the floors in many cases being low at the doorway, owing to the weight of the walls causing the joists to settle slightly.
Spring butts, both double and single, are fixed in exactly the same way, and also all other kinds of hinges, the principle being the same throughout.
One word as to fitting of folding doors: care should be taken to keep the outside stiles on each door the same width, even if the middle stiles are not exactly the same. Also take care to keep the rails in each pair of doors level, or the appearance is spoiled. Fig. 136 shows a pair of doors correct in respect to the former point, but incorrect as to the latter; while Fig. 137 is the reverse – the rails are right, but the stiles are uneven. A little care in fitting will make both right, and there is no excuse for neglecting it.